Monday, 28 September 2009

New Centre to Aid Gypsy Children

A school which is leading the way in the education of Gypsy children, opened a £750,000 community learning centre on Thursday, 6th October.

Around 20 per cent of the 244 pupils at Monkton Priory primary school in Pembroke are members of the Gypsy and travelling community.

Nine years ago, concerned at the small numbers of Gypsy children taking up secondary education in its schools, Pembrokeshire County Council began an initiative called the Priory Project.

Supported by the then Welsh Office and later the Welsh Assembly Government, its objective was to encourage, support and provide secondary, further and eventually higher education for these pupils.

Subsequently the school became the centre of the Pembrokeshire Gypsy and Traveller Education Service which today provides education for 210 Gypsy children in 13 different schools around Pembrokeshire.

The teacher in charge of the service, Bev Stephens, even organises education for children belonging to circus and fairground families when they pass through West Wales

“The Priory Project is the only Gypsy/Traveller project in Wales to be inspected by Estyn and it received an excellent report” said Monkton Priory School headteacher, William Rees, who received the MBE in 1999 for services to education.

“Since the initiative started we have had Gypsy pupils going through secondary schools, passing exams and obtaining employment. Some of them attend Pembrokeshire College and one has obtained a university degree.”

A large proportion of the new Learning Centre at the school will be used by Gypsy and traveller children as well as by adults from the surrounding community.

Adult courses will provide the necessary skills for employment in an area of high unemployment.

The centre, funded by Pembrokeshire County Council, the Welsh Assembly Government, ELWa (Education and Learning Wales) and Objective 1, houses classrooms for the mainstream school, a computer suite, staff room and community meeting hall.

It was be officially opened by Jane Davidson AM, Welsh Assembly Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning.

Photograph: Assembly Minister Jane Davidson is pictured in the computer suite of the new learning centre. With her are gypsy pupils Kirby Jones (seated) Sadie Jones, Clem Boswell and Ethan Price with headteacher Williams Rees and County Council Chairman, Councillor Clive Collins.


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